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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

36                           LIFE or
CHAPTER III.
THE  OPEN"  SEA----THE  FIBST   STEP   ON   A   FOBEIG-2ST   SOIL----TEKKUIFPM—•
CU2VIANA----EAKTHQUAKEJ3—DEPABTUBE.
THEY sailed quickly; the sea current, propelled by
the gulf-current which flows from the Azores towards
the Straits of Gibraltar and the Canary Isles, and
which drives round the waters of the Atlantic Ocean
in a continual circular course of 3300 miles, occupied
the attention of the travel-glad naturalists. An English
cruising fleet seen in the distance, determined the
captain to diverge from the originally-intended coxirso
during the night., still, however, steering towards the
thirtieth degree south. Sea swallows and dolphins
accompanied Humboldt so far. On the llth of June
he for the first time enjoyed the surprising appearance
of the sea covered by an innumerable quantity of
Medusae, which passed the vessel with great velocity,
and which, by their metallic lustre, formed an agreeable
contrast to the azure-coloured ocean.
A first marine voyage fills such a mind as that of
HumboldtJs with new events, new views and expe-
riences, every hour. During the night he saw Modusa*
emit electric sparks at the moment when the act of
catching them communicated to them a slight ahoek.
Between Madeira and the African coast he poreoivccl
a perfect rain of shooting stars, which became more
vivid the further south the ship sailed. This phono-
inenon, which is seen sometimes in the South fc3ea, in
the neighbourhood of volcanoes, and in many partfct
of Europe, has been made tfo^s subject of especial